3123 Festival Moons 5, Morning
Cleansing of Sog – Part Two
After we brought Crezzy and her Killers back to the command center Malek escorted her to interrogation. They liked him in interrogation, that or he managed to impress them with some of his skills. Either way Malek became indoctrinated into the Black Lanterns as a Grey Lantern, a liaison between the Rangers and the Black Lanterns. We continued patrols for another week before the Prelacy launched a major offensive against Sog. Apparently they didn’t appreciate our taking Sog from them and they wanted it back. It was a hectic and heated week of battle but we managed to push them back again. Artivan has received orders to retreat off the front line to be healed finally. Maybe once he’s back we can work together on a mission or two.
has had lots of fun with the Rangers for all that we’ve been stuck in the middle of a war. He seems to have a weight on his soul that for now the Rangers, and myself, have been able to start healing. He hasn’t yet come forward with what has been ailing him, but if I can prove to him that I am worthy of his trusting me with this secret he just might let me in. Until then it looks like we are going to have our hands full with him. He’s proven to be quite the trickster, and has an unending love for shiny things that I can only attribute to his similarities with magpies as a whole. Sheela seems to also be warming to him. It probably helps that he carries treats on him and has shown that he isn’t above sharing.
Artivan contacted me to let me know he was pulling my group of archers together again. Apparently Malek managed to finally get Crezzy to divulge her intel on the Dominion Operative she knows in Sog. I looked at the group before me as Sky, Artivan, Galashorn and I joked about Malek ‘handling Crezzy before Artivan said "I can’t believe I’m joining in this we’re done!" I was happy that Magpie had been willing to help me and Galashorn find a new set of armor for my use. With this elven armor it should be safer to take on some of these opponents we face now that I seem to be surrounded by archers who won’t want to get in close. Artivan told us about how there was a group of Inns who had combined their buildings by busting down walls to make one large inn they’ve named the Shattered Horse Confederation. At least one of the Dominion forces had taken residence here with the local Prelacy presence. I asked Artivan if we had a name for the Prelacy operative we were trying to capture. He told me that Malek had managed to get a name: Prelacy Special Operative Javier Crollier. He also said that taking Crollier alive was preferable but that if we wiped out the entire Dominon/Prelacy presence nobody would lose sleep over it.
Artivan then turned to me as the others started to talk amongst themselves and brought my attention to a Ranger Trainee named Shadrach. Apparently Shadrach was a cook, I could tell because he was wearing a chef’s hat and carrying a pair of carving knives. He told me that Shadrach seems to have some odd mental powers but that otherwise he is basically green and I shouldn’t expect too much from him. At this point I heard Sky call out “He had a girlfriend?” As I turned to look she flew up into the air and away from Galashorn. He drew his bow and aimed at her as Gunther pointed his crossbow at Galashorn’s nuts and he lowered his bow. I shook my head and shepherded everyone outside as Artivan looked like he was getting ready to truly get annoyed at all of us.
As night fell and we headed towards the Shattered Horse Confederation I told Galashorn, Gunther and Sky that I wanted them to scout out the inn and find as much of the building layout and the position of any guards as they could. I told them that this was a scouting mission and that they were not to engage the enemy if they could avoid it. I then moved to a house that was opposite the inn and knicked on the door. Shadrach and I talked with the owners and after a little money changed hands they were willing to let us come in and utilize their house as a staging point. I saluted my new spies and as Sky flew them up to the rooftops Shadrach and I went in and moved to a window where we could see out over the street and hear anything if something went wrong. Shadrach seemed to keep peeking out the window and I was about to tell him to stop it when he sat down. He then turned to me and said “something came to me”. As he said it I could feel the lingering hints of magic and saw his odd tattoos wiggle. “Did you do something?” I asked. He assured me that he hadn’t done anything he just had someone’s thoughts appear in his mind. I realized that Artivan had probably given me more of a duty with this one than he realized if Shadrach wasn’t going to be able to defend himself. Especially if he had magical ability flinging itself out without his knowledge or control. Though I guess this definitely explains what Magpie had tried to tell me about Shadrach and how he didn’t know what he is. But Shadrach had been talking while I reminisced about Magpie’s confusion.
“- don’t know why that wall looked particularly like it was a good place to pee, nor why it brought to mind some buxom woman… Sorry. I know where Javier is! And there seems to be someone who has nice shoes with him, I think he’s got to be the Dominion contact, I always knew they had a foot fetish -” Knowing he was going to go on in that vein for a while and not wanting to hear about why he thought the Dominion was full of people with foot fetishes I stopped him. I asked him where Javier was and if there was some way he could show or explain it to me.
We had moved into the kitchen during this rant and Shadrach had started cooking a stew with food from inside his pack (I had heard what he had done to Magpie and Sky and had made certain he came with knives this time as well as his cooking supplies). When I asked if he could show me he surprised me by pulling out some parchment and sketching a quick overview of the inn from what he had gathered from the mind of the guard he had spied on. As Shadrach started in on his map while stirring the pot Sky and Gunther returned. I noted that Galashorn was nowhere to be seen and raised my eyebrow at Sky. She shook her head and I had the two of them share their findings with me. Her findings however included the disturbing realization that these Prelacy soldiers were wearing Ranger cloaks. I turned to ask Shadrach to include the details Sky and Gunther had brought and saw that Shadrach had turned his sketch into a highly detailed map, on which he had already included the placement of the guards that Sky and Gunther had described. I was highly impressed and as Shadrach started dishing up stew to the family whose house we had borrowed for a base of operations I asked Sky to find Galashorn and bring him back. Eyeing the stew Shadrach was now dishing up for us she nodded and raced out the door.
As we started in on Shadrach’s Stew Gunther and I joined Shadrach in examining the map, and without the information on the corner Galashorn had been sent to scout we were probably going to have to do some creative sniping to take out the guards simultaneously. I didn’t want to just rush straight in with this group because their talents appeared to better suit a stealthy extraction method. As we were finishing our first bowls Sky came in carrying and shaking Galashorn. I raised my eyebrows both at her admonitions and her strength. I’ve known for a while she is strong and looks it, but it still always surprises me to see it in action. Sky reported that she heard the rotating guards spot her but that it sounded like they thought she was a massive bat. She then pushed Galashorn forward and told him to report. Galashorn reported that he had taken out one guard who was on the roof and had been in a position to not be seen when he fell, then looked back at Sky as he told me that he had been about to take out the drunk at the end of the alleyway when Sky had picked him up and flew him back here.
I took a deep breath and let it out as I closed my eyes for a second then turned to Sky. “Thank you for bringing him back, please get some stew and see if you can’t help Shadrach with where the new placements are.” I turned to Galashorn as he said “stew!” and told him to wait. I told him that I was very glad he had taken out the guard on the roof, that had been some fast and smart thinking. However I was very disappointed that he had been planning to take the shot on the ‘drunk’ at the end of the alleyway. He and I got into an argument over his reasonings as he told me that these soldiers had been killing Rangers and were also pretending to be Rangers themselves. He also seemed to think that he could have taken out the ‘drunk’ at the end of the alley with no problem. I brought up the circling guards and he waved a hand saying he could have taken them easily. I glared at him and told him that I had given him a direct order not to engage. I told him that the first guard being taken out ended up being a good thing but that he had completely ignored a direct order after telling me that he would be alright following my orders. I told him that he had better follow my orders in the future regardless of his pretensions about his abilities or that we were going to have a problem. I then told him he couldn’t have any stew and we turned to the map.
As everyone looked over Shadrach’s artwork of a map Gunther looked at me and pointed to the guard Galashorn had taken out, saying “He’s dead.”
“You spoke!” I replied, to which he shrugged and I looked at the map. “And with him gone we have a clear shot at coming up the side alleys to this door” I pointed to a door on the end of one of the taverns that had been swallowed in the Confederation, “ as long as we wait until the two rotating guards go past.” Shadrach then turned to me and told me that he would be able to distract them. He wanted to walk up to the guards carrying his pot of stew and tell them that he was supposed to feed all of the Rangers. His thought was that since he shared their accent and language he’d be able to distract them while we took them out. I liked the idea and asked Sky to get Galashorn and Gunther up onto the roof of the opposing building to snipe down on the guards while Shadrach distracted them. I was going to be along the corner of the building waiting close by with Sheela in case Shadrach was getting himself in over his head. The plan after this was to take out all of the guards around the building and try to slip in close to where Shadrach had indicated Javier was supposed to be.
Surprisingly Shadrach managed to pull off getting the guards completely confused. He turned the corner and called to them while carrying his steaming pot of stew “Hey! I’m supposed to feed you!” “What?” one asked “I don’t remember hearing anything about that” the other added. “You’re Rangers aren’t you?” Shadrach asked in his Prelate-accented voice “yes” they said glancing around. “Then I was told that I’m supposed to feed you.” “But then why did you come from -” As one of the guards started to point in my direction an arrow filled his throat and another grew out of his partner’s head.
“Vodrak said you should have taken the stew” Shadrach said, then as he looked down at them he shuddered and set his pot down next to the building. I noticed Sky pick up Gunther and fly back to circle around then see Galashorn run along the building and jump from the building he is on over an alley and fire his bow towards where the ‘drunk’ guard he had wanted to get before was. As he landed on the edge of the roof and teetered I put my hand to my forehead, then he righted himself and signaled to me that all was clear. Shaking my head I patted Shadrach on the shoulder and we moved the bodies behind a trough.
When we looked around the corner I noticed that Sky and Gunther each took shots at the top of the tower and another building before Sky moved them up to the tower and they took out the door guards. I looked behind me and noticed Galashorn making his way over the rooftops back towards us. I led Shadrach along the side of the building and motioned for him to stay as we got over to the window. I snuck along the edge of the window, looking in as I did so and I spotted four Dominion operatives who looked like they might be intended as a very impressive backup. I thought for a second and then indicated to Shadrach that he should crawl under the window to get past.
Unfortunately as Shadrach was directly under the window one of the Dominion operatives from the side of the room I couldn’t see came over and flung the window open, pulling himself out to take a piss as he looks down on Shadrach. He said “Wha-” as sssshthunk, a crossbow bolt zoomed past and tore his family jewels off, embedding in his genetals and causing him to almost silently fall, random bodily fluids and his body collapsing over Shadrach. I immediately sent a burst of life energy into the room, bringing the chairs and tables to full twiggy life and directing them to fully encapsulate the Dominion operatives while also shoving twigs into their mouths and holding their jaws shut. I then jumped into the room with Sheela and with my bow in hand informed them “If you don’t struggle, speak, or fight in any way you will live as our prisoners -” Shadrach then called out as he pulled himself out from under the corpse and up onto the window sill “And we won’t shoot off your dicks!”, and grinning I reemphasize “if you struggle, fight or say anything in any way we will kill you all.” As Shadrach moves towards the door I see one immediately stop moving and indicate surrender, one seemed to be giving me an assessing look, and the one in the corner of the room struggled against my bonds as violently as he could though he was thoroughly gagged to the point of not being able to make a noise. He also failed to get out but as Shadrach walked past me and to the door I ordered him to kill the one struggling. He sighed then walked over and slit the struggler’s throat with his knife and the second operative immediately surrendered.
I heard some thumping in the room next to us where we had originally intended to enter then heard Galashorn shout out “That’s 4! Bring your purifiers, bring your armies, we will take them! We have done it before and we will do it again!” Shadrach went over to the door as I gave the wall an odd look (I really don’t remember Galashorn being this vindictive and obsessed with people he battled when we grew up together). Shadrach opened the door and I looked back as I heard him say “Jo Jo, his bow looks like it should fire Now!” and I hear a crossbow fire into the ceiling. Shadrach then charges out of the room and I quietly say to the two remaining operatives as I follow him out “now you stay right there ‘ya hear”. I see Shadrach standing on a table with his knives drawn facing down a bowman and a crossbowman as Javier comes out of the room he had been in and kicks the table over with Shadrach before stabbing him with an flaming longsword lined with copper wire and crystals that makes a sound very like the crackle of lightning. Javier then said “I don’t like you Jo Jo” to which Shadrach replied “Jo Jo doesn’t like you either” and to Javier’s look “I’m not Jo Jo, he is!” and Shadrach pointed away from himself. After this the two bowmen moved in to attack Shadrach as I started to prepare for another entanglement. Knowing that Shadrach would be caught since he was laying on the ground I hesitated and Shadrach cried out “Do it!” as he dodged the two bowmen’s blades.
I instantly threw the magic into the wood around all of them and it came to life, binding everyone as strongly as the operatives had been bound. Following this I walked forward with my bow and Sheela, brushing the reaching growths aside I placed my arrow next to Javier’s head and said “Surrender and give me your sword and you will live.” He glares at me and I say “Sheela.” Sheela then moves forward through the fronds and takes his nuts in her mouth. Javier then yells out “Surrender! I have a wolf with my dick in it’s jaws!” I hear the sound of weapons dropping and people surrendering, then as I’m starting to lower my bow I hear a twang and a holler. My bow immediately goes back to the side of Javier’s head and I call out “Sky, what’s going on? Do I kill him or did they surrender?” Shadrach yells out to Javier from his prone position in the branches “you fell for the oldest trick in the book!” and Javier cries “I surrendered! Now will you shut him up?!” I lower my bow and indicate that Shadrach should stop taunting Javier as I let him go.
I convinced the currently living wood to release their legs and we walk our five prisoners into the main room of the inn which created the West portion of the Confederation to see Sky holding Galashorn’s bow and her side. I jogged over and healed Sky, asking what the hell had happened. Galashorn was glaring at the wall as Sky tells me that Galashorn had tried to shoot at one of the Prelates who had surrendered. I turned to Galashorn and said “really? What were you thinking?”
Galashorn looked at me “He shot me. I told him he was mine, so I shot at him. I wasn’t going to kill him since he surrendered but he doesn’t need his kneecaps!” I heard Shadrach mutter that kneecaps are important as I shook my head and put a hand to my temple. Between Galashorn ignoring a direct order from me and lying to me in the process and now this. I dropped my hand and told them that I was going to give him to Artivan for punishment because I wasn’t ready to deal with it right then. An Ogre then walked in carrying more humans and said “These three look like they know something as well. I give them to you.” And he dropped them at our feet. Shadrach ran out the door as I thanked the Ogre, returning with his stew he offered it to the Ogre who drank it like I would chug a pint and he turned away smiling.
As we march our captives back to the base camp Shadrach walks up to me and asks if I’d tell Artivan what he did and mentioned wanting a promotion to Sou Chef. I laughed and told him I would as I kept an eye on Galashorn who was keeping close to Sky, probably because she had his bow. I walked over to them as we dropped off the prisoners and told them the three of us were going to go to Artivan since Sky had been present during Galashorn’s breaking of the Ranger Code and I hadn’t. When we entered Artivan’s tent he seemed very glad of what we had accomplished but could tell that there was also something else that I needed to discuss with him that wasn’t so pleasant. I introduced the problem to Artivan and let Sky share the details of exactly what had happened.
Artivan was pissed. He verbally stripped Galashorn down in front of us and demanded “what kind of organization do you think this is? What will happen if our enemies decide that surrender doesn’t mean anything? We have few enough Rangers as it is!” Artivan then told him that for the next month he was to wait upon Sky like a princess, clean her boots, follow her orders precisely, pamper her and generally be her slave. After the verbal lashing he dispensed to Galashorn Artivan turned to Sky and called her Corporal, thanking her for stepping in front of the arrow and stopping Galashorn from doing irreparable harm to the Ranger cause. He told her that she was going to be holding on to Galashorn’s bow for the next month but that Artivan didn’t want Galashorn being sent into a combat situation unarmed but that she was his commander for the month. He then turned to me calling me Sergeant, with a “what? I’m running low on good officers” and asked me to get a formal report to him when I could and asked how Shadrach did. I told him that Shadrach had done an amazing job showing bravery and that he was willing to follow orders and come forward with great ideas. Artivan turned to him saying “alright Shadrach, I’m promoting you” Shadrach interrupted with “to Sou Chef?” and Artivan replied “yes, and to Ranger. Trade cloaks with Galashorn.” Shadrach thanked Artivan profusely and asked if there was anything he wanted specifically for desert. Artivan seemed to think about it then asked for some Prelacy delicacy called cheesecake and bribed him with a promotion to Baker.
As we left the command tent and Galashorn put on the Ranger Trainee cloak I walked over and put my hand to his back, making the weave thicken and alter. When I was done there was a symbol on his back of a nutsack, wrapped in a bow with a crossbow bolt through the top. At the bottom I had the cloak generate the text: Man-Slave. Sky gave it a look that I’m sure meant that if she wasn’t feeling so bad from being shot and having Galashorn forced upon her for the next month she might have had me change it back but we went back to our tent so I could write up my report and she could get some rest. She sent Galashorn off to find his things and relocate nearby.
My report was detailed and included the map Shadrach had created. I kept it professional and short but made certain that Artivan knew who contributed what where (both good and bad), and what my opinions were on each contribution. I especially made sure to mention that Galashorn might need to go through the section of training which details following orders again. I left the map relatively un-marred but did indicate where the important events happened with small sigils. I also mentioned that Shadrach might be a good candidate for map creation when it’s needed. As I got back from delivering the report to Artivan I noted Magpie flipping through the Arcfire equipment that we had liberated off of Javier. We had gathered an Arcfire longsword, a handcaster, and his Arcfire chainmail armor. I wasn’t sure what the chainmail did, or how to operate the sword, but asked Magpie what he thought.
“Shiny” and I chuckled. He looked at me, “I’ve seen this stuff before”. I blinked and he said “well not these, but this stuff. The…” he paused, “the winghunters had a guy with them who used it.” I kneeled next to him and he looked at me. “Can I have it?” I tilted my head and he seemed to get my question without my asking. “I want to learn how to use this stuff. So that when I come across them again I can use their toys against them, and they can know how much shit they’re in”.
I smiled, “of course you can. I was considering using them myself, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to because some of my brethren see these as darkness, not a tool.” He looked at me and I explained how these had been used long ago by a group who tried to control the universe. And how because of that many of my brethren who like me worship nature and the power of life considered such tools to be inherently Dark. I explained to him and Sky how I believed that this Arcmancy is a tool because it is based on crystals which seem to naturally gather a form of power unto themselves. I explained how since it doesn’t use the power of Darkness or Flame to fuel the items Arcmancy isn’t Dark. And though I might be one of the only ones to believe this I believe the crystals that fuel Arcmancy is a type of natural magic though it isn’t tied to Life, or any lifeforms as we know them.
A little after I had finished this explanation and was helping Magpie pack up the Arcfire equipment to take back to his nest Galashorn came in and started talking about his stuff being gone. Magpie left at this point and I tried to calm Galashorn down. Eventually he and Sky left and I lay down for a nap.